Vancouver as the mirror of Russian degradation

Friday, 5. March 2010     1 comment(s)
Igor Torbakov
Senior Researcher

Have you ever read the Federal target program “The Development of Physical Culture and Sports in the Russian Federation for the Period of 2006-2015”? I bet you haven’t so let me give you some idea about this remarkable document. For instance, how about this fantastic paragraph: “…Success in international [sports] contests is the surest proof of the vitality and spiritual strength of the nation as well as of its military and political might.” Well, if this is so, then, in accordance with this logic, what is the defeat in some major tournament, say, in the Olympic Games, supposed to prove? Okay, now you got what I’m driving at… No wonder, a week after the Vancouver Olympics ended, Russia is still going through what some aptly called the “agony of defeat.”

Russia placed 11th with three golds and sixth in the overall medal count with just 15 medals. These results are particularly embarrassing for the country that takes the torch for the next Winter Olympics in its Black Sea resort of Sochi in 2014. Needless to say, this meager “medals harvest” proved to be a far cry from what the Russian authorities had expected. Just before the Vancouver Olympics opened, the Moscow daily Izvestia leaked an internal memo prepared for the Kremlin by Russia’s top sports officials, which confidently predicted that Team Russia would pick up as many as 31 medals in Vancouver, including between seven and 11 golds.

To avoid getting tainted with what’s considered a “national debacle,” President Dmitry Medvedev called off plans to attend the closing ceremony in Vancouver to claim in person the Olympic flag for Russia. Back in Moscow, he called on Russian Olympic officials to resign. “Those responsible should take the brave decision and sign a letter” of resignation, Medvedev said in televised comments. “If they can’t, we will help them.”

Yesterday, the head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Leonid Tyagachev, said he resigned in the wake of Russia’s worst performance at the Winter Games. Tyagachev, who got his illustrious position due to his close friendship with Vladimir Putin (reportedly, he used to be Putin’s ski instructor), said in televised remarks Thursday that his decision followed the “unexpectedly” poor results of the team at Vancouver. To be sure, more heads will roll.

But in all fairness, is Russia’s 11th place in the Games that much “unexpected” or “abnormal”? Let’s briefly check some other tables. The national death rate puts Russia in the 182nd place among the world countries; it places 175th in terms of physical security of its citizens, 146th in the Corruption Perception Index, 134th in terms of life expectancy, 127th in terms of the state of public health, 97th in terms of per capita income, 62nd in terms of technological development, 32nd in the ecological rating, and 27th in terms of the quality of education.

It is quite remarkable that in the wake of Vancouver even some nationalist-minded Kremlin spin doctors started making noises about Russia’s deep-seated malaise. “The Olympic results are giving rise to very dark thoughts,” stated the popular TV presenter Alexei Pushkov in his recent “Postscript” program. “It seems that the causes of our humiliation in Vancouver go much deeper” than the incompetence, malpractices and corruption of the bureaucrats who oversee athletics in Russia, he suggested. In fact, Pushkov appeared to have alluded to the process of decay eroding the Russian society.

Anyone who grew up and did his studies in the communist Soviet Union will remember Lenin’s article “Leo Tolstoy as the Mirror of the Russian Revolution.” To paraphrase the title of the proletarian leader’s 1908 piece, Vancouver Olympics proved to be the mirror of the post-Soviet Russia’s degradation.

Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors

Discussion (1 comments)

8.3.2010, O.K.

И это пройдет.

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